The Federal Government has ordered the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to ensure that the fuel scarcity currently being experienced across the country does not extend beyond this weekend.
The directive was given to the minister on Wednesday during the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is currently on an official visit to Kano State, could not attend the meeting.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the government’s position known while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
He said Kachikwu was initially scheduled to join him at the briefing but could not do so because he needed to attend an important meeting as part of efforts aimed at resolving the fuel supply crisis.
Mohammed allayed the fears in some quarters that the government might be planning to increase the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol.
He added that Kachikwu assured members of the council that the country had enough stock of petrol that could last till the end of January 2018.
Mohammed said, “One, the government has no intention at all to increase the pump price of PMS. Two, the minister (Kachikwu) assured the council that we have enough products till the next one month, even till the end of January.
“Thirdly, this is the winter period. There is always more demand for refined petroleum products during the winter period in the colder countries, this is what we are experiencing now.
“The council gave him (Kachikwu) a matching order that this fuel scarcity should not last beyond this weekend and they are going to work very hard to ensure that it is curtailed. He assured council that there is actually no cause for alarm.”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on Wednesday did not respond to enquiries as to what it was doing to clear the fuel queues in many states across the country.
Efforts to get the corporation’s spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, to state if the oil firm had met with marketers in order to address the lingering fuel scarcity were not successful, as he neither picked calls to his mobile telephone nor replied a text message sent to him on the matter.
It was observed that black marketers of PMS had returned to the streets of Abuja and neighbouring states, selling the product in plastic containers at higher prices.
One of our correspondents observed that the black marketers sold a 10-litre worth of petrol for as high as N2,500, in contrast to N1,450 it would have cost at the pump.
Petrol seekers also formed long queues in front of the few filling stations that dispensed the product on Wednesday, as many other outlets did not dispense PMS.
In Lagos, fuel depots, including that of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation at Ejigbo, recorded low activities as loading dropped, though the queues in filling stations were not as long as the situation was on Tuesday.
The PUNCH had reported on Tuesday that many of the private depots in Apapa, Lagos, where many marketers get petroleum products from for distribution to other states, did not have PMS while those that had were doing “skeletal loading.”
During a visit to some of the depots on Wednesday, many dealers were stranded as they complained that they had not been able to get PMS after making payments for the product.
It was gathered that loading at the NNPC’s Ejigbo depot had dropped by about 50 per cent with about 20 to 30 tankers getting petrol daily, compared to 50 to 60 before now.
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said some of the depots decided to reduce the rate of loading so as to spread it over a longer period.
He stated, “Ask the NNPC how many of their ships have come in this week, then you will know whether we have received products or not. If the NNPC tells you that they have one ship coming in, the petrol inside the NNPC vessel is eight days plus before it gets to any petrol station.
“If the NNPC tells you it has products on the vessel, add a minimum of five days before it gets to the depots.”
A top official at one of the depots in Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no new vessel had come to any jetty in Apapa this week, adding that a vessel belonging to the NNPC was being expected to berth on Thursday or Friday.
He said, “The import vessel always brings from 30 to 35 million metric tonnes. There is currently a vessel at Oando SPM that has been discharging petrol to major marketers, including Oando, Total and MRS, since last week.
“The PPMC has promised us that within the next 48 hours that a vessel will come in.”
Meanwhile, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, has said its members in the state and parts of Ogun State will no longer withdraw their services next week.
Last week, the association had accused the NNPC of under-supplying its members with petrol, adding that they might be forced to shut their filling stations by December 11 if the situation persisted.
A statement made available on Wednesday, quoted the IPMAN Chairman in Lagos, Alhaji Alanamu Balogun, as announcing the suspension of the plan at the end of a meeting of oil marketers held at the Ejigbo secretariat the day earlier.
Balogun said the suspension followed a strong appeal by the NNPC, which had arranged a meeting with the IPMAN officials for December 14 in Abuja.
He noted that IPMAN yielded to the NNPC’s appeal because of consideration for members of the public who engaged in panic buying of petroleum products since the announcement of the service withdrawal notice.
Balogun said the meeting with NNPC officials would determine whether or not the withdrawal of service would still hold.
“But we don’t want to be seen by the government and the public as economic saboteurs, because we have a stake in the economic stability of this great country,” he added.
IPMAN faulted the statement by the NNPC’S Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, that there was enough fuel storage at the Ejigbo satellite depot, and that the ex-depot price of petrol remained at N133.38.
“Mr. Ughamadu should rather come to Ejigbo and find out the true position of things instead of staying in Abuja and saying what is not correct,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency on Wednesday stated that it had no plan to increase the price of petrol despite the current scarcity of the product.
The PPPRA is the agency of the Federal Government that fixes the prices of petroleum products like petrol, kerosene and diesel.
It said in a statement issued in Abuja that it had confidence that the NNPC would handle the current situation at filling stations well as there was enough products in the country.
The agency said, “The PPPRA has observed the sudden reappearance of queues and the attendant discomfort felt by the general public and stakeholders across the country. We want to use this medium to assure all Nigerians that there is no need for apprehension or panic buying.
“We are confident that the NNPC, being a major supplier of petroleum products into the system and the supplier of last resort, can ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products into the market and the corporation has given assurances in this regard.
“The PPPRA, therefore, urges fuel consumers across the country to be calm as there is no plan by the government to review the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit.”
The agency said it would continue to monitor the supply situation and take every step required to ensure that there was no disruption whatsoever in the system.
“The PPPRA again wishes to assure all stakeholders and members of the public of uninterrupted products supply and distribution, pursuant to the overall goal of facilitating a vibrant and robust downstream oil and gas sector,” it added.
In Rivers State, motorists faced a hard time in Port Harcourt and its environs on Wednesday.